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I agree with what Susan about women being 'forgotten'; the situation is far worse for minorities, especially weak ones, which are generally treated worse than the women of the dominant social group. In the DRC pygmies are excluded from community investment projects by their more dominant neighbours. This is a terrible legacy of an oudated class system.

Hi Susan,

Sadly, I have to agree with you on this one. Women do need to get more recognition and access to benefits that are generated by social investment campaigns extractive companies make. All members of a community should be able to benefit equally from the positive impacts that happen when an axtractive project is undergoing.

Hi Sarah. I agree with both of you on the importance of involving the communities at all stages of the value chain, from the decision to or not to extract to how the benefits are shared. However, something which is always overlooked in the EI is the gender dimensions of the extractive industries. according to a world bank report, 'the impact of benefits and risks of EI's are often considered only at community level, without exploring how they are allocated within the community. men have most access to benefits, which consist mostly of employment and income, while women and the families they care for are more vulnerable to the risks  created by EI's, which consist of mostly harmful social and environmental impacts'.Therefore as we engage in our advocacy work, we should not forget the prioritisation of women's involvement in the EI's.

Hi Jules,

Thank you for the comment. You rise some good points. Communities must and should be involved at all stages throughout a project's lifecycle. Investors must understand, acknowledge and respect cultural diffrences of the countries where they choose to establish.

Another important point: the decision process when it comes to social investment or other important decisions that will affect communities. They must involve as many people as possible within the organization and as many stakeholders as possible. 

Hi Sarah. I read with great interest Katia Madrid's posting and I agree with her. From an African perceptive the engagement phase is very critical because choices that could potentially determine whether or not the investor obtains his social license to operate are made here. It’s all types of decisions: who to speak to first in a given community, interpreting ambiguous signals from the hesitant locals, how do you go about recruiting locally, site where to set up a temporary camp, language....The community, full of expectations, debates and dissects every detail, especially in rural African settings that have endured decades of being short-changed by corrupt national leaders.

The foreign investor comes into the country via its capital where all the Government ministries and decision makers are based as is normally the case in Africa. The investor soon recruits a competent and well connected local person (might even an expatriate who has resided in the country a long enough) as a senior consultant/permanent ‘local’ expert. He invariably becomes influential in choices that are made for the planned project whose operations could be located could be anywhere, it could be thousands of miles away from the capital –Maybe some place he might only know very little about; sure enough he also becomes the in-house expert on local culture. His opinion is sought for other non-technical aspects and it may soon include local politics especially if he succeeds in building a personal good rapport with investors’ key people. It’s essential that some checks and balances are put in place.

I’ve seen projects get off to a smooth start largely because this key local non-technical person is competent, determined and very professional; conversely I’ve seen projects become completely beset with teething problems because of some poor choices sometimes unwittingly made by the person recruited to play that same role. Post-conflict nations are notorious in this regard; I know for example a case whereby the ‘catchy’ name chosen for the new company on the local expert’s suggestion, turned out to be the source of all sorts of problems that never really went away despite the tens of thousands of dollars spent to fix them. The seemingly innocuous name referred to a national geographical feature found in a region whose people the local community had had problems with in the past!

How can an investor avoid such pitfalls? My suggestion is to get the closest institution of tertiary education to carry out a comprehensive survey of the communities around the project before any direct engagement with the local community. The resulting data (questionnaire provided by investors’ consultants) should provide helpful insights into the community’s world that would help managers make appropriate choices at every subsequent stage. Involving a regional ethnically-diverse academic or training institution has the advantage of mitigating negative factors such subjectivity and the stereotyping that are very common in Africa.